I’ve experienced the sweet torture of being a New York Knickerbockers fan for almost my entire life.
So much of my youth was defined by major Knicks heartbreaks. There was the 1995 Eastern Semifinals against the Pacers. The ’97 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Heat. The Finals when Olajuwon stole John Starks’ life force and refused to give it back.
Then there was — and unfortunately still is — the James Dolan era, a man I’ve spoken ill of more times than I can count. From six different coaches in seven seasons to every contract blunder you can think of (Eddy Curry, Allan Houston’s last one, every overinflated Melo figure, all things Marbury), to letting Isaiah Thomas run ANYTHING, if I got a chicken wing for every time I’ve loudly proclaimed “Fuck James Dolan” I’d quickly balloon up to the size of the 400-lb hackers Trump alleges are infiltrating our national party committees.
Through it all, I’ve remained loyal. A large part of this is that hometown sports fandom is intrinsically masochistic, and for New Yorkers especially more so; a large part of NYC "authenticity" is peppered by chest-puffing over how much you’ve seen and struggled through with a near-comically sadistic sense of pride. Only a city where its residents will brag about surviving taking the train when it was a legitimately dangerous mode of transportation or going through Times Square when it was a drug den and sex-worker haven can withstand the crushing blow of eight points in 11 seconds.
That said, for all of the demoralizing losses and abject failures, every so often there’s a glimmer of why you come to love your home team so much that you cling to those memories. Starks dunking on the entire Bulls organization. Game three of the 99 Finals against the Spurs, capping off an incredible run as an 8th seed. Pat Riley’s old hair.
However, even the greatest Knicks moments tend to to have a coda of disappointment; of winning the battle, but ultimately never the war; of counting the decades since the last time we laid claim to the Larry O’Brien trophy and remembering we never did because we last took the title before O’Brien was ever a commissioner. To be a Knicks fan is to be a glutton for punishment; to believe that, despite even your more historic moments being defined by failure, this season might be the one where we pull it altogether, even when you know it almost certainly won’t. It’s a bittersweet existence that I’d largely resigned myself to; an unwavering love for an organization that simply refuses to love me back no matter how hard it tries to get itself together.
The saga of Derrick Rose, however, might be just what it takes to get me to walk away from the franchise.
For those who have lost sight of this case, the highlights are as follows:
In 2015, a Jane Doe filed a civil suit against Rose and two of his friends, alleging that she was gang raped while severely intoxicated and unable to consent in 2013. The case largely avoided heavy media coverage post filing, but with the deposition resuming and both sides start preparing for trial, every new detail becomes more stomach turning than the last:
1. Since the filing of the motion, there seems to have been consistent effort from Rose’s PR team to smear the accuser’s reputation in the public eye. A quick search of TMZ will generate headlines such as “'Rape' Lawsuit Is … JUST A MONEY GRAB”, “ACCUSER CONSENTED TO GROUP SEX … Mad Over Sex Toy”, “You're No Prude YOU HOOKED UP WITH NICK YOUNG”,”RAPE ACCUSER FILED POLICE REPORT … 2 Years After Incident” - all standard-issue tried and true methods of attempting to discredit claims of sexual abuse.
2. These claims have moved over from PR “leaks” to actual legal strategy by Rose’s representation. An excerpt from a filed memorandum includes the following: “Plaintiff is publicly portraying herself as sexual. The production includes photos from Plaintiff’s Instagram account that are sexual in nature. In these images, Plaintiff is dressed in provocative attire, is in sexually suggestive poses, and is in photographs indicating that she engages in sexually charged encounters with more than one man at a time.” While thankfully this argument was not appreciated by the presiding judge, the planned defense of Rose’s team seems to be continuously pepper with allegations founded in traditional slut-shaming, continuously accusing her of being sexually adventurous and therefore more amenable to group sex.
3. There has been increasingly troubling discussion around the concept of affirmative consent, which, regardless of Rose’s lawyers’ implications, is required in each an every sexual interaction, no matter how sexually adventurous participants may or may not be. During his deposition, Rose himself states “we leaving to go over to someone’s house at 1:00, there’s nothing to talk about” — suggesting quite incorrectly that consent is implied and cannot be withdrawn at any point by parties involved. This misconception by Rose is further accentuated by the admission by Rose’s own team that he does not understand what consent means.
4. Last, but certainly not least, the judge has ruled that the alleged victim must remove the current cloak of anonymity and use her full name should the case make it to trial — a blow to the long understood precedent of rape cases, especially high-profile ones. To be clear, the plaintiff is not anonymous to Rose or his legal team. They know full well who she is and have accessed her social media, her friends, and of course their personal interactions via phone call and text messages. His team only wants her name out there for her life to be ripped apart and excoriated by the media and public. As it stands, even under the Jane Doe pseudonym, it has been pushed that the victim is an NBA groupie, a money grubber, and a sexually loose woman. We shouldn’t expect any of the treatment to alleviate once her name is disseminated to the general public.
In the recent offseason, the Knicks acquired Rose. He’s expected to be the starting point guard for the season, knees notwithstanding. And beyond being unable to fathom how a starting five containing Melo, Porzingis, and Rose can equitably distribute the ball, I don’t think I can stand by my home team while this abominable saga plays out in the backdrop.
I don’t expect a sports franchise in any league to bench a player over charges that haven’t resulted in criminal charges or civil penalties yet. Just looking at the NBA, this is a league in which Kobe’s admission that he probably did rape that girl is a fact that’s glossed over in any retelling of his legacy, regardless of whether you love or hate him. But in a year littered with increased attention to rape and sexual assault cases and how historically poorly they are treated — from Brock Turner, to Nate Parker, to the Vanderbilt football Team, to the ongoing saga at the University of Richmond — I can’t in good conscience show love for my team knowing that one of the current faces of the franchise was more than likely an active participant in one of the worst violations a person can commit against another human being.
Rape and sexual assault victims deserve our support far more than their abusers do, no matter how talented they are in their chosen vocation, and ultimately trumps any fealty I may have; I can only hope that there comes a day that this becomes the social consensus as opposed to a principle held by the minority. As a survivor of sexual assault myself, someone who has consistently advocated for domestic violence and sexual assault victims in multiple capacities, and a woman, there are some bifurcations of the “art” versus the “person” that I personally can’t stomach, even if it comes at the expense of one of the longest relationships that I hold dear, or results in me rooting for the redemption of Brandon Jennings. Until then, I’ll keep my Knicks gear tucked away for the foreseeable future.